Friday, January 22, 2010

Mortem Capiendum

Thursday night Rachel and I headed out to the Guthrie Theater on yet another "Guthrie loves nonprofits!" night.

The Guthrie is a very pretty theater, with a lot of cool interiors...

and exteriors, like the Endless Bridge.

We went to see a showing of Mortem Capiendum by the Four Humors. It's a show about a group of snake-oil salesmen starring Professor John St. Miracle. They begin the show with all of the standard tricks of the trade: a bit of music, a lot of fast talking and trying to appear like a local in this here town of "Minn-ee-appolis!", and of course an audience plant who is magically cured by Doctor ("It's Professor, but I'll let you get away with that this once.") St. Miracle.

It's funny and entertaining, but the real show begins right after that when the Proffessor claims to have "the Ultimate cure for a condition most permanent." It appears that the trio have somehow managed to trap Death in a steamboat trunk and have extracted from him an elixir "brewed from the River Styx!" called Mortem Capiendum, the drink of eternal life.

Of course in a show about eternal life, there has to be proof of the effects. The Professor himself has already died, shot down by bandits outside of St. Louis. Eustace is the next to go, drowned by the Professor, and stays dead long enough for the snake-oil facade to falter. Their accomplice, Lloyd, falls grotesquely soon after, only to rise again.

In and around these deaths the characters discover, well, what being dead is like, both physically and spiritually. Each has lost something that made them what they were is now gone- their ambitions have become fuzzy and impossible to remember, their most treasured skills lost as their souls "just stood up and walked away," and food and all pleasures taste like ash. The show plays around with this theme for quite a while, taking plenty of interesting turns that are impossible to predict. One moment the characters could be having a serious conversation about where their souls went, the next they are doing handstands to try to prevent their blood from pooling down around their ankles.

For such a short play (only 60 minutes) they manage to pack a surprising amount of material into it, the theme of which seems to be that life without the things that make life good is worthless, even if it is eternal. It is darkly funny all the way through and raises some interesting questions about the quest for life everlasting and what would happen if we ever achieved it. All in all, a good show that fit exactly my kind of humor.*

*Note: not applicable to all people.

Until next time...

"Whoever has lived long enough to find out what life is, knows how deep a debt of gratitude we owe to Adam, the first great benefactor of our race. He brought death into the world."
- The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson and the Comedy of the Extraordinary Twins , by Mark Twain

1 comment:

Rachel Teagle said...

I hearted Mortem Capiendum, I think I saw it twice during Fringe. Ah, old timey death stoppin' goodness. Poor Eustace!
They've got a show coming up in the Spring at Bedlam called "Welcome to Dystopia" which looked bad ass. They also do improv nights every once in a while that are free and during beer special times. Hooray Four Humors!